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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 55

Expositor's Dictionary of TextsExpositor's Dictionary

Verses 1-13

The True Imperialism

Isaiah 55:1

I. 'Ho, every one that thirsteth!' That is a call to the faint and the weary. What is he to do? 'Incline your ear.' 'Hearken diligently unto Me.'

1. There has to be a discipline of the ear. There has to be a determined and resolute effort to listen to God. The voices of the world are so plausible, so fascinating, so easily seducing, that if a man is to catch the higher voice he must set himself in the resolute act of attention. 'Hearken diligently unto me.' For the individual and for the nation the discipline of the ear is the first step to the attainment of a strong, restful, unwearied, and satisfying life.

2. The discipline of the ear is to be accompanied by the discipline of the heart. Listen, and then yield. Right hearing necessitates strong and unequivocal doing. Hear the highest, and then uncompromisingly obey it.

II. What would be the issues of such obedience? They are unfolded for us in this chapter with wondrous prodigality. (1) There is the assured promise of a fuller life. 'Your soul shall live.' Life shall be no longer scant and scrimpy. (2) 'Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knewest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee, because of the Lord thy God, for He hath glorified thee.' What does that mean? It means that a true and glorified natural life is to create a true and glorified Imperialism.

That is the true imperialism empire by moral and spiritual sovereignty, allurement and dominion by the fascinating radiance of a pure and sanctified life. (3) A true imperialism is to be accompanied by a splendid magnanimity. The thoughts of the Eternal are characterized by loftiness, by breadth, by comprehensiveness, by an all-inclusive sympathy which vibrates to the interests of each, as though each contained, as indeed it does, the welfare of the whole. The truly imperial people is to share this spacious and inclusive thought.

III. Note the climax of the sequence. All this exalted and glorified character, this true imperialism, this splendid magnanimity, is to issue in a rich, assured, and beautiful ministry. There is to be nothing wavering and uncertain about the moral empire and sovereignty of such a people.

J. H. Jowett, Apostolic Optimism, p. 19.

The Great Proclamation

Isaiah 55:1

I. To Whom this Offer is Made.

It is to every one thirsty and penniless. That is a melancholy combination, to be needing something infinitely, and to have not a farthing to get it with. But that is the condition in which we all stand, in regard to the highest and best things.

The man that knows what it is of which he is in such sore need is blessed. The man who only feels dimly that he needs something, and does not know that it is God whom he does need, is condemned to wander in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is, and where his heart gapes, parched and cracked like the soil upon which he treads.

But there are dormant thirsts too. It is no proof of superiority that a savage has fewer wants than we have, for want is the open mouth into which supply comes. And you all have deep in your nature desires which will for ever keep you from being blessed or at rest unless they are awakened and settled, though these desires are all unconscious.

And yet there are no desires so dormant but that their being ungratified makes a man restless. Until your earthly life is like the life of Jesus Christ in heaven even whilst you are on earth, you will never be at rest.

'Ho, every one that thirsteth.' That designation includes us all. 'And he that hath no money.' Who has any? Notice that the persons represented in our text as penniless are, in the next verse, remonstrated with for spending 'money'. Which being translated out of parable into fact, is simply this, that our efforts may and do win for us the lower satisfactions which meet our transitory and superficial necessities, but that no effort of ours can secure for us the loftier blessings which slake the Diviner thirsts of immortal souls.

II. In What it Consists.

Jesus Christ Himself is the all-sufficient supply, and the soul that has Him shall never thirst.

III. How do we Get the Gifts?

The paradox of my text needs little explanation, 'Buy without money and without price'. The contradiction on the surface is but intended to make emphatic this blessed truth, that the only conditions are a sense of need, and a willingness to take nothing else, and nothing more.

A Maclaren, The Wearied Christ, p. 118.

Illustration. They tell an old story about the rejoicings at the coronation of some great king, when there was set up in the market-place a triple fountain, from each of whose three lips flowed a different kind of rare liquor, which any man who chose to bring a pitcher might fill from, at his choice. Notice my text, 'Come ye to the waters' ... 'buy wine and milk'. The great fountain is set up in the market-place of the world, and every man may come; and whichever of this glorious trinity of effluents he needs most, there his. lip may glue itself and there it may drink, be it 'water' that refreshes, or 'wine' that gladdens, or 'milk' that nourishes. They are all contained in this one great gift that flows out from the deep heart of God to the thirsty lips of parched humanity.

A. Maclaren, The Wearied Christ, p. 121.

References. Leviticus 1:0 . A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Isaiah XLIX. -LXVI. p. 142. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv. No. 199; vol. xx. No. 1161; vol. xxix. No. 1726. C. Jerdan, Pastures of Tender Grass, p. 327. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Lessons for Daily Life, p. 109. J. H. Jowett, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvii. 1900, p. 401. J. A. Alexander, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, p. 332.Leviticus 1:2 . A. G. Mortimer, The Church's Lessons for the Christian Year, part i. p. 139. Leviticus 1-3. R. W. Pritchard, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxiii. 1903, p. 99. Leviticus 1-7. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliii. No. 2534. Leviticus 1-13. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Isaiah XLIX.-LXVI. p. 134.

Wise Investments

Isaiah 55:2

Money and labour are the two great commodities which rule the exchange of life. The rich man gives his money, the poor his labour; and the words of our text therefore challenge the two classes of society the one because they make a foolish expenditure of wealth, and the other because they get a poor return for their work.

I. Unwise Expenditure. It is, perhaps, necessary to do no more than mention the very unwise expenditure of money and labour, of which most of us can tell, in the years that are past; how much has gone for flowers in the banquet of life, and how little for 'bread'. What care and toil have been devoted for that which, after all, has brought in the least possible amount of satisfaction. The leanness of many of our souls, and the restlessness of the hearts of thousands, could well bear witness to the necessity of the remonstrance, 'Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not?'

II. Some Good Investments. It will suit our purpose better if we consider what are some of life's good investments, which bring in solid advantages-such as a man really wants if his soul is to prosper.

a. Peace of Mind. I place first among the gains of life peace of mind, and for that the investment is simply and alone acts of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. You must commit your whole self, as a poor miserable sinner, absolutely to His grace and power. Your soul must go forth, without question upon that bold venture accepting the promise as endorsed with the faithfulness of Almighty God. Do it fearlessly; and the result is sure: there will come back a sense of pardon; and the interest of that pardon, if I may so call it, pays you every day and every moment.

b. Truth. The next thing which you will do well to traffic in is truth, the clear knowledge of God's truth. No man can get truth without labour. It is the wages of severe work. You must be always looking out for the teachings of truth. You must make your Bible a real daily study. You must pray over it; you must hold fast the little you get, and continually add to it You must gather it as the Israelites gathered their manna, little by little morning and evening, every day.

c. Affections of our Fellow-creatures. I place next the affections of our fellow-creatures. Every affection is a real possession, and well worth the purchase, cost it what it may, so we do not barter truth. Therefore, lay yourself out for affections not selfishly, not that you may be liked, not that you may be gratified, but for real affection's sake, and as a means to a high end; and especially, I should say, the affection of any who from any cause have been placed at some disadvantage, say persons who are afflicted, or the poor for there are no affections so generous, so precious.

d. Usefulness. Following this, and as a consequence (for unless we are loved we cannot do it), comes usefulness, one of the few things worth living for usefulness to the body, usefulness to the mind, usefulness to the soul. I pity the person who is content to live on without trying to be useful. Whatever you have, remember He is the proprietor of all, and will take account whether it has been used selfishly, or for Him and His His poor, His sick, His children, His sufferers, His outcasts, His saints, His Church, His world. Have some definite work always in hand for usefulness.

e. Treasure in Heaven. Everything which we give or do for God is actually laying up for us treasure in heaven: transferred from this insecure and bankrupt world to the high places of that safe bank. It is gone before, and awaits us there against the time we come, and every day we may increase that hidden treasure within the veil. The return it pays us now, in God's retributive justice, is a payment of all we touch; and we shall receive it all back again at last a hundredfold.

References. Leviticus 2:0 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxviii. No. 2278; vol. xlviii. No. 2786. J. A. Alexander, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, p. 345.Leviticus 3:0 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxv. No. 2092; vol. xxxix. No. 2316. K. A. MacLeay, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxx. 1906, p. 44.Leviticus 4:0 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlviii. No. 2787. Leviticus 4-6. Ibid. vol. xliii. No. 2534. Leviticus 4-8. H. Hensley Henson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxiii. 1908, p. 65.Leviticus 6:0 . R. H. McKim, The Gospel in the Christian Year, p. 114. J. A. Alexander, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, p. 357. Leviticus 6:7 . W. H. Hutchings, Sermon-Sketches, p. 48. F. D. Huntington, Christian Believing and Living, p. 129. W. Reiner, Sermons, p. 85. C. Kingsley, Sermons on National Subjects, p. 221.Leviticus 7:0 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx. No. 1195; vol. xlviii. No. 2797. C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, p. 332. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. iv. p. 207. Leviticus 7-9. Spurgeon, Sermons, xxxvi. No. 2181.Leviticus 8:0 . W. M. Taylor, Outlines of Sermons on the Old Testament, p. 231. H. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 163.Leviticus 8:9 . H. Wace, Christianity and Morality, p. 55. G. Granville Bradley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xli. 1892. J. Percival, Some Helps for School Life, p. 20. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Isaiah XLIX.-LXVI. p. 152. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii. No. 676; vol. xxiii. No. 1387. Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xii. p. 23. W. M. Taylor, Old Testament Outlines, p. 231. "Plain Sermons" by contributors to Tracts for the Times, vol. iv. p. 302. J. Foster, Lectures (2nd Series), p. 129. C. Morris, Preacher's, Lantern, vol. ii. p. 60. H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv. p. 106. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii. No. 676; vol. xxiii. No. 1387. J. Keble, Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany, p. 27. Leviticus 8-11. E. S. Talbot, Sermons at Southwark, p. 71.Leviticus 9:0 . S. Horton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lviii. 1900, p. 279. T. G. Selby, The Strenuous Gospel, p. 2.

The Rain and the Word

Isaiah 55:10-11

The Gospel is compared to rain and snow in its

I. Origin. 'From heaven.' All truth is Divine in its source.

II. Operation. ' Watereth the earth.' The Gospel produces a marvellous change on the human heart.

III. Benefits. 'That it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater.' The Gospel gives instruction, comfort, strength, confidence.

IV. Final Results. ' It shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.' We do not see this yet; but we shall by and by.

F. J. Austin, Seeds and Saplings, p. 48.

References. Leviticus 10:0 . W. Simpson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxix. 1891, p. 361.Leviticus 10:11 . H. Hensley Henson, ibid. vol. lxxi. 1907, p. 56. T. P. Boultbee, Outlines of Sermons on the Old Testament, p. 232. F. E. Paget, Studies in the Christian Character, p. 41. G. E. Jelf, Plain Preaching to Poor People (9th Series), p. 25.Leviticus 10:13 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xli. No. 2410.

The Reputation of God

Isaiah 55:13

By 'a name' we mean a reputation. This old Testament word carries the same signification in my text

I. It is Necessary that God should have a Name. It is not necessary that we should have a name, but it is obviously necessary that God should. One of God's earliest rights is the right of reputation. This shall be accorded Him, says my text, 'And it shall be to the Lord for a name'.

God desires a name. Some believe in an impassive God. Surely not such is the God of the Bible. It is necessary God should have a name that His people may realize it. One of our greatest spiritual blessings is to realize the reputation of God. Men must know what God is that they may appreciate Him with reverent appreciation.

It is necessary God should have a name for the world's sake. Man, considered as separated from God by sin, needs to know that august and redeeming name. Give God a name, for till men know God they are dead whilst they live.

II. God's Deliverances of His People give Him a Name. Note the prophecy in v. 12, 'For ye shall go out... and be led forth'.

God has a wondrous reputation in all things. But that He is the God of deliverances gives Him His greatest name. God has such a conception of redemption as never entered into the heart of man.

God delivers from guilt. God delivers from evil habit. God delivers from sorrow.

III. The Characteristics of God's People give Him a Name. The emancipated ones are to be marked by 'joy' and 'peace'. We give God a name when gracious characteristics mark us. Joy is the privilege of the Lord's redeemed. But peace is an even richer gift.

IV. Nature, as Suggestive of the Spiritual, gives God a Name. 'The mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.' Nature has a mystical value. To some souls Nature is non-spiritual. They find God eludes them in that province. To others Nature is a shrine of God and is crammed with heaven.

Said Blake, who was alike painter and poet, 'You ask me if, when I look at the sunrise, I see a round disc of fire something like a guinea. No, I do not. I see an innumerable company of the heavenly host, crying, "Holy, Holy, Holy".' He added, 'I look through the window, not with it'.

V. All Beautiful Transformations give God a Name. 'Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle-tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name.' Every renewed nature is a testimony to God. National and world-wide conversion will glorify God's reputation in inconceivable degree.

Dinsdale T. Young, The Crimson Book, p. 221.

References. Leviticus 13:0 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv. No. 833; vol. liii. No. 3044. A. W. Mathews, "Let the Myrtle Flourish," Sermons, 1900-1902. LVI. 2-5. H. D. M. Spence, Voices and Silences, p. 259. Leviticus 4:0 . J. Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. iii. p. 69. Leviticus 4:0 and 6. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlviii. No. 2762.Leviticus 8:0 . Ibid. vol. xxiv. No. 1437. Leviticus 12:0 . A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Isaiah XLIX.-LXVI. p. 162.Leviticus 1:0 . J. Keble, Sermons for the Saints' Days, p. 41.Leviticus 6:0 . S. A. Tipple, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxix. 1906, p. 377.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Isaiah 55". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/isaiah-55.html. 1910.
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